5/31/07

Daddy don't live in that New York City no more.

This is the story of my favorite music video. It's "My Old School" by Steely Dan, and it's from 1973.

Now, Steely Dan is everything I should hate about music rolled up into a doughy white ball. They've got all that lame rock trivia: they named their band after a dildo in a Burroughs novel (“In Naked Lunch, the dildo Steely Dan is a prop used in a porn-film scenario based on the orgasms that accompany death by hanging.” That quote is from a 1977 New York Times article titled, “Fancy Dan: Nobody's making better music than an unlikely duo named after a dildo”). Chevy Chase played drums in an early incarnation of the band called The Leather Canary, then renamed The Bad Rock Group. Ugh. They co-opted the blues, Dixieland, cool jazz, and r&b, then threw in conservatory chops, just in case that conglomerate wasn’t stiff enough. They have a chord named after them. They're most famous for a song that everybody hates ("Rikki Don't Lose That Number"). Their lead instrument is often an electric piano that sounds like the third patch on the battery-powered keyboard you sometimes play at Goodwill. Their nearest sonic touchstone is perhaps a more restrained Hall & Oates. They make David Bowie’s plastic soul sound like Sexual Chocolate (Coming to America, holler!). But they’re, like, one of my favorite bands ever, now? And now I’m trying to convince all my friends who hate Steely Dan as much as I used to that, Steely Dan is awesome.

But, as the man said, you don't have to take my word for it.

(why did this have to be the first picture of LeVar Burton I could find?)

Look at the haircut. Look at the sunglasses. Look at the hippie in the tunic playing rhythm guitar.

Look at the token be-afroed dude in the leisure suit. Look at the guy in the 3/4-sleeves baseball T playing a Firebird bass. Look at the backup swingers swaying from the hip in a marijuana'ed frenzy. Look at the rock-god mustache on Walter Becker. And is that...? oh my god, is his shirt completely unbuttoned?!?! It's perhaps the rawest, purest distillation of whatever it was that makes white people in the 1970s whiter than they've ever been, or ever will be again, that I've ever seen. More importantly, listen to this fucking song!!!! You could timewarp this exact lineup to Lollapalooza Mark 73 and the ironic hipster legions would swoon. Steely Dan is AWESOME. On purpose, and... less... on purpose. But mostly on purpose. Donald Fagen and Walter Becker are my heroes.

5/29/07

Accidents will happen. (Well, that was a freebie.)

We took a left out of the Applebee’s parking lot. “Soon” had looped back around to “Only Shallow” on the stereo, and as we came to a red light, I ejected Loveless, pulled a random disc from the console and pushed it in the slot. The dash gears whirred and Laura said, “I like the way the cds go in.” I looked down to see what she was talking about - the gentle slant in the instrument panel that pulls cds in at an upward angle - as the first song started.

As it turned out, I hit the SUV in front of us to the tune of “Little Discourage” by Idlewild.

She took off through the intersection at a good clip, and I followed. I couldn’t see that the traffic light was red over the roof of the Bravada. She hard-stopped in the seconds it took me to glance from the road to the blue-lit dashboard. I looked up in time to see fifteen feet melt into ten feet before my foot found the brake, ten feet bleed into six feet before the ABS shuddered and yanked the car right and then left, six feet shiver into two feet before the inevitability set in. “I am going to hit this Oldsmobile SUV.”

SKREEEE.

A tiny earthquake of pumping struts and cracking plastic. The aquiline fender of my Civic tucked under the Bravada’s back bumper. A fanciful vignette played in time lapse: a fist-fight, a lawsuit, prison issue oranges, a million dollars in debt. Eventually, I clicked the shifter up three notches to park, and down another notch to reverse. Backed up two feet. Stopped, still ten feet into the intersection. All around a creepy calm. No rubberneckers, ambulance chasers, paddy wagons, death moths. I said, “I should probably back up farther,” but then the driver door of the Bravada swung open, and a beautiful essence-of-Iowa whitegirl, impeccably dress-casual, stepped out onto the pavement. I opened my door and climbed halfway out.

“Where do you want to go?” she shouted.

“What?” Me, not understanding the gist.

“Where do you want to go?” Her, approaching me now.

I pointed to a parking lot. “Over there,” I yelled back.

“Ok.” Very pretty girl I just hit with my car.

She stepped onto the running board and back into the cab and shot off past the light, which had turned green in the hullabaloo. Nearing the lot entrance, she turned on her left blinker, and I said to Laura, “Wouldn’t it be great if I just kept going?” I thought about just going, flooring it. But I turned in after her, meek as a lamb.

We pulled neatly into spaces in the middle of the largely empty complex. She was already out, crouched under her car’s tail. I reached into the glove box for the insurance card that my mom had thoughtfully coated with contact paper. I went around the back of my car and said, “I’m not going to lie, that was really embarrassing.”

She laughed. “It really doesn’t look that bad,” she said.

Her passenger, a frumpier, beglassed girl, swooped around to the hood of my car. “It really doesn’t look that bad,” she said.

“Well, here’s my information,” I said, waving the shiny white card at them.

“You know what,” said the driver, “I think we can just let you go. Unless you want my information for something.”

“It really doesn't look that bad,” her friend offered, running her hand over the hood of my car.

I crouched under the Olds next to her, posed to inspect but not processing anything, heart ballooning with adrenaline. “Why would I want your information?”

“Well, I was the one who went through the red light.”

“But… I hit you.”

“I think I could just let you go.”

“Okay.”

It’s hard to remember, but I think she clapped me on the shoulder. A solicitous, familial pat. I must have looked very guilty. She smiled.

I walked back to my car and sat down, heavy. “I don’t know if I should wait for them to go first, or if I should go first, or what,” I said. I looked over at their car, and both of the girls’ faces blazed blue from cell phone LCDs.

I drove away.

Don’t cross the road,
You’re under a spell –
A broken violin.
(Discourage).
Don’t cross the road,
You’re under a spell
Of broken violence.
~Idlewild, “Little Discourage”

5/28/07

Noble, servant of the powerful one

This is technically my 100th blogger post, and I went back and forth and back and forth about whether or not I should post this crazy screed I wrote at a low ebb in life exactly 367 days ago. It seemed a poignant counterpoint, considering comparatively, I'm doing fine these days. Ultimately I decided not to because I felt withered by disapproving eyes burning at me from the past. 2006: the year I tried to convince everybody who would listen that goddamnit, I can feel! I can feel, goddamnyou!!! AAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! LOOK AT ME FEELING!!!! It's a decent rant as rants go, and it made for an ok appraisal of where I've been and how shit's coming. But I really wanted my 100th blogger post to pop, and it just wasn't it.

So I'll just post these pictures of Kareem Abdul-Jabar.


Now that's it. That's my 100th blogger post.

5/25/07

Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Lickin's Chicken Fries

Really, I meant to try to be a vegetarian. But then I went shopping, and I saw these.
chicken
The official name seems to be, implausibly enough, "Dwight Yoakam's Chicken Lickin's Chicken Fries," further elaborated as "breaded fully cooked chicken breast patties with rib meat." I don't know what "Chicken Lickin's" is supposed to mean. What's more, I don't care. All I care about is that I am now the proud owner of some chicken sponsored by country music sensation / Panic Room co-star Dwight Yoakam. Put another way, I am now the giddy consumer of a processed food product whose namesake is this guy.
Dwight Yoakam
Sometimes all that matters is that something be as unlikely as possible.

5/24/07

Not in a Slint way, but I miss you

I'm watching PBS right now, and there's a Middle-Eastern man interviewing another Middle-Eastern man about the Middle East in English, and I realize, I don't think I have ever seen this on television before. This, for one reason or another, embarrasses me.

Actually, it would be more accurate to say that I'm listening to PBS, because ever since I got my new glasses, I've had intense headaches all day, every day, and I'm only comfortable after an hour in the dark. But hey, the optometrist can squeeze me in next Wednesday, to "run some tests." (He's been on vacation for 2 weeks, and patients are backing up!) Fucker. Why is it that every time I've gone to a doctor in the last five years, they've just made my shit worse? If I had a fist made of electrified bees, I would go around punching doctors with it. As it stands, I have no punishment cosmically appropriate enough bother with, so I'll just let them go about their business, helping orphans and indigent elderly for free and shit. Oh wait.

5/22/07

devildog

chloe1
This is Chloe. She's a dog. This picture is unedited. Today, I when let Chloe into my parents' house, I thought she was choking on something. Her breathing was labored, and her throat looked swollen, and she had her teeth clenched. But she was so excited to get inside, I finally just stopped worrying that anything could be wrong. So she hunkered down on the floor and spat out a bloody, fuzzy rabbit foot. My mom started screaming at the top of her lungs, "AHHHH! A FOOT! A FOOT!"

5/21/07

Housin’ Thangs

It’s not easy being one of those birds whose songs are too beautiful to survive a cage. My life is the instant it takes a snowflake to melt on an eyelash. I'm the fleeting smell of fennel in a speeding country car; a bonnie stranger's quick-evaporating breath on a cold neck in a crowded room; a soon forgot pad of fresh-cut grass underfoot.

I'm a total fucking spaz. Just a great big spaz.

I mean, I tend to freak the fuck out about not that much and melt into a puddle of anxious ooze, eventually internalizing so much angst that I overreact something fierce and make totally inappropriate gestures of one kind or another. Some of you have been on the receiving-end of some of these gestures.

It doesn’t have to be a life-altering circumstance that puts me on edge this way. It took me ‘til about age 18 to be able to feel confident – or at least not terrified – when I picked up the phone to order a pizza, let alone to call the Chlamydia doctor, or to complain that I had been overcharged at the DMV. I tend to let all people, at all times, walk all over me. OK. KO.

This is part of why so many of my late-model friendships fall apart as soon as they get airborne and swallow up the landing gear. (The other part is that I don’t like very many people very much, which is perhaps better articulated as, "I'm a prick").

It’s also why it was a mixed blessing to have such an iron-clad support staff throughout college. I imagine that if you could compare my undergraduate lifestyle to all the lifestyles of history, it would most closely resemble an 18th Century European prince. Not a good, important prince. A shitty prince that wasn’t due to inherit anything. Or, like, the 7th child of a minor duke. Total luxury, insofar as luxury connotes inactivity. I was like Hamlet if he'd been kind of a stupid douche, and had never been the scandalous crux of any international intrigue. My activities can be summed up thusly: 1) learning bullshit, 2) reclining, 3) pining.

I didn’t have to pay for shit because my Great-Grandma married an heir to the Amana Refrigerator fortune (or whatever), and she set up a trust fund that covered every dollar I spent in those four years (and not a penny more). I had tenacious friends who loved to scout places to live, and didn’t trust anybody else to handle the bills. Of the three houses I lived in during college, I only saw one before I moved in. I wrote them checks, and never saw what happend to the checks. I uttered the phrase “you pick” more than any other.

And now, somehow, I have to reach down my throat and pull up the guts to find an apartment in Baltimore, a city I’ve been to once since I was 12.

I think DMX said it best when he said, “I would tell you to suck my dick, but you might suck it.”

So you log into the U veryspecial website for incoming students with listings, and you get a half-paragraph about a one-bedroom (“CLEAN! SPACIOUS! DISGUSTING! NO DISHWASHER! AN ABSOLUTE MUST-SEE!”) with a non-negotiable June 1st lease.

Or you log onto Craigslist and try to make a decision based on pictures like this.
kitchen
MUST-SEE! Only $1,250 / day. Water, electricity, heat, gas, garbage, parking, and various peripheral taxes not included (apartment complex is technically its own sovereign nation wherein you must Render Under Caesar, Caesar being in this case the name of the landlord, a 5'3" bald Greek dude who likes to take his aggression out on poor, unwitting tenants).

My undergraduate animus, a guy who is perhaps as talented than I am, but who is a much much much much harder worker and a vastly more qualified candidate, just flew back from North Carolina, where, I gather, he just locked up his housing arrangements at Duke. Already.

WTF?!

As far as I know, places with August leases haven’t even been released yet.

But I don’t know, because I’ve never had to do this shit. Or anything like it. Because I had awesome roommates. Roommates who will be terrible parents, because they’ll never let their children learn any lessons for themselves. Bloody busybodies!

It’s always been one of the strangest laws of nature – the more recently something died, the better it tastes. So while I’m reveling in this cosmic injustice of agency, I’m trying to figure out how the FUCK I’m going to find an apartment halfway across the country. No, check that, I’m trying to figure out how I’m going to find a BUNCH of apartments that I can set up appointments to view, and then how I’m going to drive to Chicago to fly to Baltimore to view said apartments. I’m too young to rent a car, and too broke to take a bunch of cabs. And this is so ludicrously arbitrary to me, because I’m completely bereft of the ability to distinguish between interchangeable two-room shitholes. Either I have loud neighbors or I don’t, and I won't know 'til I get there, and I’ll suffer in silence either way. So I just sit there, every day, staring at 27 open tabs from craigslist, knowing I’ll never live in any of the apartments they suggest.

My friend J hit it right on the head when he said, “it’ll be as hard or as easy as you want it to be.” I’m the type of person who wants this shit to be as hard as possible. I’m a martyr, without any of the positives the term implies (like being dead). This is hard stuff for somebody as neurotic as I am to deal with. How neurotic, you ask? I’ve been knighted as an honorary Jew by Jews, and I was once affectionately referred to as a “faggot” by Lee the lesbian bartender in Chicago. Ahhh, that was a good day. Even if it's all internal (isn't that a seedy porn website? yeah it is!), I am one persecuted motherfucker. This ought to be a fun month.

Also: The wikipedia trivia for Lil Flip:
• Lil' Flip has his own soda called 'Gangsta Lean'.
• Lil' Flip is 6'2".
• He calls his car "The Lexus From Texas".

PS, I'm still more charming than any of you cretins. (Just trying to save some face.)

Did you see my menagerie?

I went to see Animal Collective on Friday. They're too big to play in Iowa City, and they sold out an all-ages show at the Picador - probably could have sold it out for twice what they charged for tickets. They left it all on the stage, then hung out after the show and talked to people. These are obviously some cool motherfuckers. They may, when all is said and done, constitute the apogee of compendious post-ironic hipsterdom.

Cuz I think Animal Collective is, in a way, the best band in the world. In a way, they're half-again as good as the next best band, Roger Federer style. Their highs are just so high. Their last two records, Sung Tongs and Feels, both start with untouchable one-two punches: "Leaf House" / "Who Could Win a Rabbit?" and "Did You See the Words?" / "Grass," respectively. Those four songs, they're better than any four songs anybody else has written in a decade. (I'll bring my gang, you bring your gang, and we'll dance in the streets with butterfly switchblades.) After the initial barages, both albums are mixed bags - the songs alternate, on basically a one-to-one ratio, between deadly boring and holy-fucking-shit-this-is-the-best-song-ever.

And they're a slam-bangerous live band, too. Their chemistry and charisma are peerless. They seem to be totally ego-free on stage, but they're all completely singular presences. Avey Tare pulsates and freaks out and spazz-dances to music of varying levels of undanceability. Panda Bear just stands there, very intense in a bookish way, sometimes wailing on that floor-tom he wails on that sounds better than any other floor-tom I've ever heard, looking a good deal more like a young Stephen Malkmus than I would've expected. Geologist does whatever he does, anchoring things with his samplers and boards, waving his headlamp around. It's an impressive display. I couldn't see a lick of it, because the mean height of the audience was 6'3".

(You know how some crowds are good crowds, and some crowds are bad crowds, and the only way to describe it is in terms of something nebulous like vibe? This crowd had the worst vibe ever. Bad voodoo, man. Steve gives a very good account of it here.)

I was worried that it would be a really, really, really disappointing show. So I did some research. I hunted around on Youtube and found the stuff they've been playing in Europe lately. Songs from their new album, like "For Reverend Green" and "Cuckoo Cuckoo." And then I got excited, because this stuff is SO FUCKING AWESOME. They're the big fractured epics that Animal Collective does so well, like "Banshee Beat" and "Purple Bottle," with sex-underwater guitars and seizure-heartbeat drums.

So I expected it to be a disappointing show. Then, I thought it would be awesome. It was like expecting a gutpunch, then unflexing your abs and breathing a sigh of relief, and moments later, catching a whistling-fast kickball in the solar plexus.

They didn't bring Deakin, their guitar player. They didn't bring a guitar. NOBODY BOTHERED TO PLAY A GUITAR. The best guitar pop band in the world left their sixstrings in Brooklyn.

I can respect that they feel like being a guitar pop band is too small, too insignificant a way to define yourself. Like they have more to give. Like guitar pop lacks gravitas, like it's not something that they can throw themselves into with all the elan they can muster.

Further, I recognize that I'm one of "those fans" - the kind of fan a band hates - the kind that tries to cattleprod them back into the middle of the (main)stream and play rock song singalongs, the songs I can wave a beer bottle to. The kind of fan that yells "Born to Run!" at a Springsteen concert. The kind of fan that complains that Radiohead doesn't sound enough like U2 anymore. The kind of fan that tries to hem in musicians, to make them feel claustrophobic and stalked by the past a la the archetypal high-school football star gone sour and bald and fat and three-kidded, who still goes out to get trashed and throw the ball around with his old teammates every weekend. The kind of fan that wants Animal Collective to be the indie-rock 3 Dog Night, in itinerant arrested development, swooping from festival to festival to play the old hits without letting the new stuff get in the way. The kind of fan who takes the phrase "this is a new one" as an opportunity to hit the bar and the bathroom, or even just get his thoughts in order. Outside.

And I'm sorry for it.

I understand that fans like me are the enemy, and I respect the urge to follow the academic micro-Afro-Eno-Neubaten-LaurieAnderson bell curve, grinding out plinks and squeeks and bleeps and blips and whispers and roars and skitters and saw wave shrapnel. It's commendable, I think, to try to push music as far as you can, even if what you end up with isn't terribly musical. This is what the beer halls of North American college towns are for - white guys making art-trash sounds that verge between beautiful and unlistenable. And Animal Collective, you are a very decent noise act. An exemplary noise act, really. When you did those tribal stomp versions of "Hey Light" and "We Tigers" and "Rabbit" and "Leaf House," I had a big fucking smile across my face. And I was occasionally soothed or amped by what you did in between. If I didn't know you, I might have been won over.

But lest we forget, YOU'RE THE FUCKING BEST GUITAR POP BAND IN THE WORLD. It's not just for me that I'm frustrated here. It's for both of us. Because if you ask me if your ass looks fat, I might tell you that your ass looks fine. But I can promise you, I don't want you walking around in pants that make your ass look fat. Not any more than you do. For both of us.

Animal Collective, on this tour, your ass looks ehhhhhh...ok. But you have a FANTASTIC ass. And you're selling yourself way, way, way short. What are those, Route 66s? Wranglers?! Get thee to a boutique!

Play thee "Did You See the Words?"!

Turn into something! DON'T turn into something!

5/19/07

Things to do before I die (2)

Direct a hugely successful, profane exploitation film and insist that, in the broadcast version of said film, the word "motherfucker(s)" be redubbed with the word "numbercruncher(s)" - as in, "numbercrunchers be trippin'!"

5/17/07

Ghostwriting the Whip

I’ve known about it for a while, so I dunno why I’ve never bothered to tell anybody about this book.
cover

Now, I haven't read it, so this isn't one of those "I just read this amazing book and I had to give my 2 pence!" situations. Don't get me wrong, I always meant to read it before I blabbed about it, but I just haven’t got around to it. I only mention the thing, this markable work of belles lettres, because its protagonist is named for my pops. We're not talking, like, "this book's hero and my father happen to share a name," like if you coincidentally had a dad named Sherlock Holmes or Philip Marlowe.

back
(I like the way the syntax could be taken to imply that their son is an overly-amorous 16 year-old beauty. And seriously, does this sound like a great book or what?!)

In 1994, my dad, feeling sure that he could never pen a book himself, went to Britain and met with this ghostwriter fellow, A.C., about a potential project of some kind or another that never came to fruition. He visited A.C.'s 16th palatial estate, gardens maintained by A.C.'s father, an English gardener. How wonderfully British! Seven, eight years later, out pops this little gem from A.C.'s literary uterus, into the literary community. My dad only found out about it - by "it," I mean being the namesake of a Brit literary detective - because he googled himself. No joke. That's why I'm calling him A.C. Because I don't want A.C. to google himself and find out that the son of his protagonist has an eye on him. And by him, I mean this guy.

WNCover
I think he was in The Who. No no no, I think he played Doctor Who.

It seems this A.C. fellow liked my dad's name so much that he just slapped it onto his alter-ego, a "ghostwriter extraordinaire"-cum-comedically noncompliant private detective, who, I gather, has to find stolen breast implants or some such, so he can write a book about it, because he needs money. There are also mobsters and things, which are probably meant to heighten the drama. It's like an Elmore Leonard novel written by Franklin W. Dixon, with an attempted dash - call it a soupcon - of Raymond Chandler in the soup pan. Except everybody is very effete and smarmy, and probably very pale and thin (because they're British). I'm rendering this judgment from the 9 pages of the book I have, thus far, mowed through. Here's Mr. C's credentials, from the splash page of his book. I like to read this over and over.

about

In a BBC article on ghostwriters, A.C."denies suggestions that ghost writers are simply frustrated novelists. For one thing, he has already published a novel, MAMaids." So a book about my dad (in a manner of speaking) is all over the BBC. Yeah, boyee. Which is why I think everybody should buy this book, because nobody reviewed it - even on Amazon - and it would make a wonderful comeback success story. Plus, a guy named after my father would become a cultural icon, and possibly have a big-budget movie made about him. He could be played by Daniel Radcliffe or somink! (That's how Brits say "something"!)

Daniel-Radcliffe is JOE

Here’s a page, chosen at random, in which Joe-nee-Andy is attempting to find his errant son Hugo - whose name is so close to an anagram of mine I’m tempted to take credit as the inspiration - and then receives a phone call on his "mobile," because this book is very, very British. The prose is almost operates on the plane of comedy. It's obviously very flip, but also pretty serious. Which kind makes it pretty awesome. Right? Tough call.

252

Just imagine Harry Potter getting toast forced into him, and "fighting back the fears that were rising inside him, making him want to scream," thereby immortalizing my father and, by extention, me. This movie's going to need a ton of voice-over narration.

You know, I'm actually going to read the book now.

5/16/07

The world's foremost lacrosse professor

I just feel I should mention that last night I had a dream that I was mentored by the world's foremost lacrosse professor. He was also a vampire, but instead of being batlike, he was vulturelike. He was 500 years old, and acknowledged to be the greatest lacrosse player in history. Except lacrosse was played in an auditorium, on chorus risers, and it was like baseball. But with lacrosse sticks. And it was always accompanied by a string quartet that played Gustav Mahler. And then the professor discovered, in a cave in Albania, an even greater and older lacrosse player than he. She was part Blue Jay, and she had a kind of heart nobody had ever seen before that allowed her to play a whole lacrosse game without taking a breath. But she was so old that she was in a coma, and he was trying to resuscitate her, that he might learn her ancient lacrosse secrets before she passed on.

Meanwhile, back at Iowa, my favorite Early Modern professor started a Wu Tang Clan rip off rap group called the Wu Man Group, and it became even more popular than the Clan, and then the two sects started warring a la the 90s East Coast / West Coast feud.

Things to do before I die (1)

Act in the dramatic reenactment portion of an ultra-low budget documentary about the Italian Renaissance. Wear poofy pants, funny hat, elaborate vest, obviously fake wig. Look very earnest.

P.S., there is a Saint John the Beheaded. Awesome.

5/15/07

A plaint.

Sure, there’s the obvious I’m-alone-and-they’re-not jealousy. But what really gets my goat when my friends get into relationships is that I’m never prepared for the 2 full letter grade drop in the quality of friendship. A-for-effort friends become middling C+ students, where the + stands for the fact that whenever they show up, you can count on them being accompanied by their bitches (and here I mean bitch as a gender-neutral general pejorative).

For at least the first 15 months of the feeling-out fallinlove, they become – if you’re really lucky – undependable at best. But what’s been surprising me lately about this is that it even applies to social networking sites, which I thought were supposed to be convenient ways to stay in touch with people who you were otherwise too lazy to keep up contact with. It’s like, first their profile picture changes to a profile picture of both of them, then all their pictures in all their albums become pictures of both of them, and then all the sudden it’s like Hey Motherfucker, I know you're too busy to drive the 18 minutes to my house, but you can’t even write on my wall?!

I root for the happiness of the people I love! Me calling somebody a bad friend is a little like the pot calling the kettle... a bad friend.

5/13/07

The Italian Baldwin goes meta

So I was watching this episode of Without a Trace in which Anthony Lapaglia plays dual roles – the standard hero (Jack Malone) and an old man (John Michaels) via an unsettling latex mask.

So Lapaglia as an old man is investigating Lapaglia’s father, who is played, for some reason, by Martin Landau, about whether or not Landau killed Lapaglia’s mother.

Then, at the end of the episode, in a montage set to David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” Old Lapaglia makes Young Lapaglia say his full name. So he says “John Michael Malone.” And it turns out Old Lapaglia, John Michaels, is what Young Lapaglia will BECOME if he won't "let go" and "reach out to the people close to" him. And then Young Lapaglia says – I’m not kidding – “now I really am Malone,” except he says it “now I really am alone.” Then Young Lapaglia wakes up, and it turns out it was all a dream.

It was maybe the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And I just thought I would share it with you.

Having been accused of elitism 37 times in 2 days, I'm really going for it now.

I went to see Minus the Bear tonight, and during the show my friend J committed one of the worst party fouls I’ve ever seen. When MtB came back out for the encore, the following exchange took place:

J (screaming): “CRISCO TWISTER! PLAY CRISCO TWISTER!”
Minus the Bear singer: “We played that one first.” (It was, indeed, the first song they had played.)
Crowd: *stunned silence*
Minus the Bear singer: “Hey everybody, look at that guy.”
Crowd: “BOOOOOO!”

It was incredible.

Now, before I launch into this rant, I should mention that MtB doesn’t get a lot of love in my circle. They’re considered hack-y and puerile. So my test sample is totally skewed. BUT… I like Minus the Bear, so I’m going to continue as if that weren’t the case.

I missed Chin Up Chin Up, which was disappointing, because there just ain’t enough of that Archers of Loaf-esque rockerism around these days. I thought they’d be the second band, but instead it was Honorary Title, an emo-fied “fuck me I’m sensitive” (as Elvis Costello put it) Brooklyn export act that veers so close to a 3rd tier post-post-grunge act, and so close to parody it’s scary. You could tell before they played a note, because the lead singer had arm tattoos, played an acoustic guitar, and had one of those hairdos that splits the difference between the Nike swoosh and an air-metal mullet.
swooshlet
Here's him in a denim jacket. GURGLE GURGLE GURGLE!

Going to all-ages shows is weird for me nowadays, because I’m at the tail end of show-going age. I no longer feel alienated by emo kids my own age or slack indie-rock dudes a few years older than I. Nowadays I feel alienated by hipsters sometimes as many six or seven years my junior, in their cloth hats. In my day, everybody in the audience didn’t do things like take a camera-phone picture when the band started playing a song he liked. I’d like to think it’s because we knew that that didn’t make any sense at all. “This is one of them doing ‘Gold Soundz!’”

I love this sound! I must take a picture!

But ahh, we were no wiser. We just didn’t have camera phones. We were, though, substantially less attractive. And on this new influx of burnished flesh, bluest eyes and lithe limbs, I blame the internet. It used to be, in order to become disaffected and find a social circle of fellow mild-mannered outcasts, you had to really work for it. You didn’t feel right with the good-looking fuckers standing around blasting their quads, and you weren’t a punk or a goth, and you weren’t a metal dude, so you kind of figured out, by elimination, which people would be the types to listen to Guided by Voices with you, and went from there. It wasn’t that many people, back in the day. Now, apparently it’s different, because there are all these hot people at shows, and they’re in BIG GROUPS. It’s creepy. Five hot guys and four hot girls, and they’re all buddies, and they’ve all got their Canons, and they’re all draped in scene-signifiers. And they’re hot! Like Ornette Coleman and Galaxie 500, I say to these people, “this is our music.”

Nah, I’m not mad atcha. It just freaks me out a little. But, again, Minus the Bear belong in that “buzz band” category, and I guess the buzz-bin has always been where hot mainstreamers slum. See: Harvey Danger.

The worst thing, I think, about the hot-ification of indie rock is that, in the past, show-etiquette was defined by the fact that unattractive people are by nature, shy. So they didn’t do things like cup their hands in front of their mouths like megaphones and bleat the words to all the choruses of all the songs they know. Because yo, the band can’t hear you. The only people who can hear you are the people in front of you. Tragically, I am always this people. Plus, in 2000 everybody was short, and that was sweet, because they were easy to see over. But these fuckers, they’re TALL. Tall and lanky. Just the way those girls with plastic jewels glued to their fingernails like ‘em.

Minus the Bear, as I mentioned, gets hated on a lot by the indie cognoscenti. Which is fine. All their songs are about girls they’re maybe about to sleep with and songs about women they used to sleep with and maybe might sleep with again, like a silly cross of “Mr. Brightside,” “Seagulls Screaming Kiss Her, Kiss Her,” and Van Halen. That’s cool. I love their first album, though, Highly Refined Pirates. It’s one of those albums that “helped me through some shit” back when I was “going through some shit.” So I will defend it (and selected songs by the Get Up Kids) tooth and nail, even if I am the lone archer on that particular parapet.

The first two songs really did make for an incredible one-two punch, “Thanks for the Killer Game of Crisco Twister” into “The Game Needed Me.” It had been a while since I’d been to a show where I got that bloodrush, where sweat starts flowing almost from the first note, and afterwards your knees are shaky and wobbling, almost exactly the same endorphin-laden feeling that you get after making out with somebody you’ve never met before (or have known for a long time). It’s a pretty fucking good feeling.

Plus, I gotta say: watching Dave Knudson, the MtB lead guitarist, is an absolute privilege.

(Watch the hands of the guy on the left. The synch is off, but you get the idea. Simply amazing.)

He’s a big guy, and he looks like Jim from the Office, and that by itself is pretty cool, but he also got called, I think by AP magazine in like 1999 or something, back when it was still cool, “the finest guitarist in North America.” Which is just as arbitrary as it sounds. But it’s evocative, by god. Anyway, at one point during a song, he convened with the bass player mid-stage, and they had a conversation, complete with jokes and laughs and a whole back and forth, and then Knudson heabanged real fast and whipped sweat from his hair into the bass player’s face, and then they both laughed and said something to each other in what looked uncannily like complete sentences, and then they walked back to opposite ends of the stage. And all the while, Knudson was playing this incredibly complicated double-tapped rhythm-and-lead guitar part. It was an impressive display. And he’s hot. And energetic. And the dude was in BOTCH.
15815
I love Botch. *swoon*.

Easily the best part of the show, though, was during the last song of the encore, "Absinthe Party at the Fly Honey Warehouse," when the P.A. shut down for no discernable reason during the last chorus. A sea of mad hands shot up in the classic "what the shit?!" pose of indignation, and then 400 people started screaming the words - "Let's get a bottle and drink alone tonight!" - while the band chugged on unphased. It was pretty fucking cool. That’s more than a thousand. Good night!

5/10/07

Got a TV eye on me.

I have one more spectacle-related (spectacular?) story.

Last Friday, I went to R&J’s house, where, for legal reasons, absolutely no recreational drug use took place (by statement which I mean to imply absolutely no irony). Then, we went to the Deadwood and met some of J’s girlfriend’s friends. I was introduced to a girl we’ll call Ragweed, who shook my hand and said hello. Then, I was introduced to another girl, who we’ll call Dead Fish. Since I’d already shook one hand and thought it protocol, I extended my hand in greeting. After a few seconds, she took it up without enthusiasm, and without making eye contact with me. I thought she was kind of a bitch, really. She stared at her elbows and gave me one of those limp-fish fingers-only handshakes. We sat down, and J and I yelled at each other over Dead Fish, who sat between us.

“I went to the eye doctor,” I said. I explained I’d bought plastic glasses, and was roundly accused of being a hipster. Then I said, “It turns out I’m a little bit walleyed, so I need a prism on my glasses so I don’t have to strain so hard to see.” I put my fingers on the sides of my head and put out my fingers like those googly-eyed novelty glasses with the eyeballs on springs and wiggled them about. “My eyes point in different directions.” It wasn’t necessarily all that funny, but J and I started laughing a lot.

After about ten minutes, J told me, “Hey, come to the bathroom.” I hesitated, but he told me it he had something really funny to tell me. So we walked over to the pinball machine, and he turned to me suddenly and said, “I don’t think you noticed, but, Dead Fish has a lazy eye!”

The moral is, don’t say anything, ever.

5/9/07

Who stole my shoes?!

I swear to god, I got home-invaded and somebody stole my sandals. I think Chuck D. said it best when he said, "who stole the soles?!" It gets mistranscribed a lot, because of the homophone...


But this time the rhyme
Gonna ask who did the crime
Then let's get down to the nitty-gritty

A Glass Darkly (spec yourself before you wreck yourself)

My new glasses have shaken up my standings on the “Hey, that guy kinda looks like…” Scale of Resemblance. I have to re-evaluate all sorts of shit. By my count, on a scale of 1-10, this is what's up.

I look like
curious-george
Curious George (6.6, up from 4)
Tootsie_Pop_Turtle
Mr. Turtle from the Tootsie Roll Pop commercial (8.5, down from a nearly perfect 9.2 - this is a huge blow to my sense of identity)
Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket
A baby bird hatchling (7, unchanged)
Thora_Birch
Thora Birch in Ghost World (3, up from 1, an astonishing 200 percent increase)

lil glasses
I still scare the shit out of myself every time I accidentally see a mirror. The saga, and by saga I mean slide into semi-intentional self-parody, continues.

5/7/07

My mom > other moms.

I'm pretty pumped. In about an hour, my mom is coming over, and we're going to watch The Rock. My mom is awesome, and I love The Rock. Most people would reverse that. Not me, though.

5/6/07

"Eazy" Charlie Chekhov

I was reading Chekhov while listening to Charlie Parker earlier, and I felt some kind of affinity. Can’t quite say what. Maybe it’s that they’re both very sad men who say very sad things as playfully as possible. And maybe that’s why I can’t stand either one of them, and so love them both. They both have a gift for making the unbearable sort of delightful. I think Eazy-E said it best when he said, “Police are on my drawers, I have to pause – 40 oz. in my lap and it’s freezing my balls.” Indeed, E. Indeed.

Charlie_Parker
CHECKHOV
eazy_e_a

5/5/07

The God-given right to Guns and Cars, or, Personally, this is America.

I'm not going to get up on a pedestal here, because auto-racing has a long and storied tradition, and it's sort of indespensible to our American folklore and junk like that, and to be honest, I actually enjoy watching it. Not that much, though. I love the way Wiki starts it's "auto racing" article: "Racecars are fast and easy to use." Stock cars are the ultimate equilizer, the ultimate vanity, the ultimate fantasy, a full-body mask. Two hands and two feet controlling 3,000 lbs of American machine. I love how they call it a "muscle car." It's easy to ask a girl out when you've got a gun in her mouth.

Of course, it's a lot more than that, too. But it's also that.

Today, I was watching a NASCAR event that got called off due to rain - I lead a very inactive life, and so I have time for things like this - and I was thinking about how much gas they must have wasted driving around the track for no reason a few dozen times. I realized that I felt guilty the other day when I made a wrong turn and had to drive 2 extra blocks in my 30 city /40 hgwy mpg rated Honda Civic. And then I started thinking, I wonder what the numbers really are?

40 stock cars at
4.5 miles per gallon (average) for
400 miles (conservative estimate) =
72,000 gallons per race. (NASCAR says it's 60,000 per weekend, but why would they shoot straight?)

So, 72,000 gallons per race ($288,000 worth of gas, at $3 per gallon). And every year, they run in the neighborhood of:

40 races =
2,880,000 gallons per season. (An economist recently estimated 2 million gallons. Ok, whatever. Conservatively, $6,000,000 dollars worth of gas, street price.) This in no way factors in the lubricating oil used in the cars, which I'm sure is bounteous.

And this, friends, this is just NASCAR's Nextel cup leaue - where the big boys race. I imagine it excludes their standard 2 days of race-prep time and qualifying, not to mention the transportation of vehicles from track to track. It certainly doesn't take into account NASCAR's Busch League, or NASCAR's Whelen All-American Series, which runs on 62 (!) local tracks nation-wide, or NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, or Formula 1 racing, or Rally Car racing, or Touring (really, really long races), or drag racing, or Motocross, or all related, motor-vehicle centric events like Monster Truck rallies and shit like that. And it obviously doesn't include all the driving the drivers to do become good enough drivers to drive in, and eventually win races.

Did I mention that NASCAR is the nation's fastest-growing sport?

In what is, by all accounts - at least accounts recounted by liberal pundits - an every-little-bit-helps effort to derail impending, permanent, catastrophic, cataclysmic global devastation (remember to turn off your lights when you leave a room!), it's enough to piss you off a little bit.

But then, in context, according to Conoco Phillips, "Americans remain the world’s largest gasoline consumers, using an average of 390 million gallons a day in 2006." You know, if you think about it, that's only a little more than a gallon of gas per day per person, which seems fucking extraordinary. Powering the whole country on a gallon of gas, per person, per day? Wow! But it turns out, it's not very good at all.

So, if all car racing in the united states uses, per annum, 10 million gallons, or 20, or 30, or 100 million gallons... let's assume it's responsible for 390 million gallons of gas being consumed every year. It would be, under that grave and baleful calculation, roughly and inexactly a quarter of a percent of our national talley. One forth of one percent. A single day's worth of fuel, .0025. Here's a ridiculous article, full of swiss-cheese logic, about whether NASCAR is bad for the environment. It's a great read. There are gems like this.

'"Personally, this is America, and people have a pastime," said Krista Partin of Stockbridge. "And this is my pastime. And this is what they have to use to make the cars run."'

It's the God-given right to Guns and Cars.

Personally, this is America.

I roll up the windows and turn on the AC when I'm driving fast. Not because I don't like the wind wipping against my face, or because it's just too gosh-darn noisy. I just read that if you're driving faster than 45 miles per hour, you get better fuel efficiency with the windows up and the AC on, due to changes in aerodynamic reistance at high speeds. I don't do it because I'm a good person. I do it because I'm a cheap bastard who is susceptible to intense blasts of shame.

Remember that scandal in February, right after An Inconvenient Truth won the Oscar, about how Al Gore's mansion uses more electricity in a month than the average American home uses in a year? And how big a hypocrit it made him look, and how much you wanted to just say "fuck it" yourself, because if Al Gore isn't trying, why should I?

This shit is just exhausting to think about. Do what I say, don't do what I do. Mothafuckaz is 2 Legit 2 Quit.

Oh, yeah, did you hear the head of the Bush Administration's foreign policy of teaching abstinence only was turned in for hiring sex-fantasy escorts to give him massages? Only massages, though. Least, that's what he says. I wonder if they drove. I think we should start a new initiative that encourages whores to walk to their marks.

Get set.

Go.

(See how I tied it all together there, right at the end?)

5/3/07

Thinking Plastic, or, Because, by Circes' swine, I’m my own man!

I bought some plastic glasses today - the blocky, excessive kind with angles that you could cut your wrists on. The kind that used to signal a failure to find common ground with society at large, but were then set upon by a new wave of good-natured, low-brow epicureans who use the word “funky” to describe their wardrobes, without looking as much like Bootsy Collins as you would like them to.
bootsy
(See you at the Farmers’ Market, Boots!)

Since I was 11, I’ve been an exclusively-wire-frame cat, so I thought I should make some kind of grand gesture upon reentering the world of polygonal polymers. I may have overreached. I don’t get to pick up the actual, physical product until Tuesday, though, so I’ve got several days to reflect on just how much blinder I am than I thought I was, and how I’m going to look like one of those Poetry Slam turtleneck nerds circa 1996 until I’m not poor anymore, which won’t be for years.

(I don’t actually own any turtlenecks.)

They were really my second choice frames, my first choice being some sleek black-and-gunmetal low-profiles. It would be easy to say I didn’t buy the first choices because they were almost twice as expensive, but that wasn’t it. I didn’t buy them because I immediately developed a crush on the lady helping me pick frames (“those make you look like a clown,” “those make you look like everybody else” (wtf?)), and I didn’t feel like doing that thing I always do, i.e. completely giving in to the suggestions of a woman I have developed a fleeting and ridiculous crush on. You know the dopesheet: moon face, pug nose (the good kind), scimitar eyebrows, scathing but still good-humored, helpful and honest without being saccharine or mean.

“If I were going to tell you which pair to buy,” she said, “I would tell you to buy this pair,” holding up the expensive ones.

So I told her, I says, “let’s do rock-paper-scissors for it, best two out of three. You be the pair you like, and I’ll be the other pair.” This wasn’t really a competition, per se. There’s only one sphere of life in which I believe in mysticism, and that is rock-paper-scissors against women I like. I have never lost a game of rock paper scissors with a chick I liked. If I’m on the fence about somebody, the easiest way to decide about her is by playing rock-paper-scissors, and if she wins, going our ways, me mine and she hers. So there it was. Two scissors. Then a rock against some scissors. Then a paper against a rock. And it was settled: I liked her. And: I would buy the pair of glasses she didn’t like as much. Because, by Circes’ swine, I’m my own man!

Sure, this wasn’t really the end of the debate. I waffled several times. I even came to regret it, in between making the decision and paying for the decision. Could have retracted it a thousand times. But I sallied forth with my plastic black-and-gray Tommy Hilfigers. “I came in here thinking plastic,” I said, “and I’ve got to stick with it.”

It’s always sad when a transaction like this is completed, because even though it took a long time – in this case nearly an hour – any degree of comradery, or even complicity is wiped away at the end. You were thick as thieves, you were, when you bandied about pairs of glasses, sliding thousands and thousands of dollars worth of alloys and rubbers and plastics on and off of your nose without so much as a second thought. But when both copies of the itemized receipt are printed, and your prescription card is tucked into your wallet between the Blockbuster membership and the card reminding you about a doctor’s appointment that you forgot about four months ago, your relationship, as it was, is over. Such, I believe, is the psychology that informs the hiring of attractive, thick-skinned women and soulless, ingratiating men in sales positions.

So I was thinking on the ride home about how much part of me wishes I had become an office professional. A practitioner of non-scary medicine, like an optometrist or a dentist. An architect. Somebody with an entire office operating around me. Because I would love to be a middle-aged guy with a wife at home cooking, and me, absolutely powerful in my tiny social sphere, staying late at the office to carry on an affair with this lady, or a lady like her. I know I’m speaking in stereotypes, but that’s what we speak in when we speak of fantasies.

The optometrist talked to me about how, in “another time,” as a newly minted doctor in Oregon, where he may or may not have grown weed in his back yard – he knew a lot about the laws, anyway – his neurologist-mentor took him and a group of other young professionals to see Zig Ziegler, the motivational speaker, speak. It, I gather, helped to inform him of his own values, what he himself feels is important in his life and his practice. And I was trying to figure out what, exactly, my values are, and I think they can be pretty well encapsulated by an after-hours, blinds-drawn nine minutes with the girl in the lab coat after knocking off for the day.

I should have been a doctor.

I have a superhigh risk of glaucoma. I need a prism on my left lens, because apparently I'm sort of walleyed and I can't focus on anything without clenching my eye-muscles with all I've got, which explains the reading-fatigue. This should, apparently, reduce the "work" that reading requires substantially. Which is the best news I've heard in a long time.

The worst news? I have a superhigh risk of glaucoma. And I'm not banging a chick in a labcoat. It's a tie.

5/2/07

sub(duck)tion

So, it turns out that some ducks have penises as long as their bodies, in evolutionary response to females not wanting to have sex with undesirable males and therefore evolving circuitous, winding oviducts. There's a long article about it in the New York Times, but it's not nearly as funny as you'd hope it would be. Not by half. That said, the picture and caption more than make up for it.

duck.xlarge1
Patricia Brennan, a behavioral ecologist, examining the phallus of a Pekin duck.

Then she says, and I quote, "This guy’s the champion."

Ghostface would be proud.

*

This is the most amusing cross I've seen somebody climb up on in a while.

"...some [grammarians] even went so far as to say that in Modern English [subjunctive] usage is “pretentious”. The fools ! The subjunctive mood is a beautiful and valuable component of the English language, and instead of dying out, it actually is enjoying a subtle revival."

First of all...

Fucking... fucking... fucking... fucking THE SEA AND CAKE!

I'm on a mission that niggaz say is impossible,
But when I swing my swords they all choppable.
I be the body dropper, the heartbeat stopper,
Child educator, plus head amputator.
Cause niggaz styles are old like Mark 5 sneakers.
Lyrics are weak, like clock radio speakers.

gza

I'll see those of you who aren't out of your minds with stupidity, or geographically challenged, in July. The day before my birthday, as it happens. And I'm not wearing a shirt.

5/1/07

This Just In: Unlikely Bosom Buddies Shame Intellectuals, Crumble Academy

Best-selling Christian author Ray Comfort has proposed to do something incredible. Something that nobody has ever managed to do. Not Jesus, St. Francis, Ignatius, Aloysius – not Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Augustine – not Leibnitz, Hegel, Einstein, nor Berkeley.

He’s going to prove, without a Bible – without appealing to his faith – using only basic scientific principles – in terms of fact that everybody can understand – that God exists.

And he’s bringing along Kirk Cameron.
kirk
Kirk Fucking Cameron.
kcameron2A
Yes. Kirk Cameron. Fucking Growing Pains Kirk Cameron. YES!

What venue have these Christian warriors, soldiers not of faith but of FACT, inescapable irreducible unstoppable HARD FUCKING FACT, chosen to convey this Christo-Ninjitsu deathblow to atheists and skeptics the world over?

Why, in a moderated debate. A debate with some of the most sharply-honed intellectual skeptics in the country. Two douchekits who started an internet trend called the Blasphemy Challenge. ‘The two creators of the movement encouraged all people to tape themselves with a short message that will “damn themselves to hell.” Participants must recite the line "I deny the Holy Spirit,” and then upload their video onto YouTube. Comfort and Cameron felt that these two would be some of the most difficult people to convince that God does indeed exist, so contacted them about having a discussion.’

Uh huh. So, if they’re able to best the professors behind the Blasphemy Challenge, a Masters Course at YouTube University, surely it will be carved with spears into the stone of human wisdom.

Says Comfort, absolutely making my unsaved feets quiver in their booties: ‘Most people equate atheism with intellectualism… but it's actually an intellectual embarrassment. I am amazed at how many people think that God's existence is a matter of faith. It's not, and I will prove it at the debate – once and for all. This is not a joke. I will present undeniable scientific proof that God exists.’

SO YOU DON’T EVEN NEED FAITH! Faith doesn’t even have anything to DO with Christianity! INCREDIBLE! AN INTELLECTUAL EMBARRASSMENT! I, for one, am certainly embarrassed. You know, embarrassment is defined as “the shame you feel when your inadequacy is made public.”
Ray_Comfort
I guess you have to realize it, though.

But you know what? I’m actually pulling for this little twaddle-addled New Zealander. And I’m also pulling for his mustache. And I’m pulling for Kirk Cameron. Not exactly to win the debate, you understand, because the debate will have literally nothing to do with anything, ever. If people are going to be swayed by Kirk Cameron to become an evangelical Christian… well sheeit, atheists don't want them on their side anyway; no matter whose side these people are on, they’re going to do more harm than good.

Exhibit A: Growing Pains.

No, it’s not about the debate. I’m pulling for them, Ray and Kirk, Comfort and Cameron, to actually prove, empirically AND rationally, intelligibly AND sensibly, that there is a God, and to once and for all wipe doubt absolutely and finally off the face of the earth. Because, goddamnit, it would make the Iraq War worthwhile, you know? Finally, we'd have a reason to be there, other than the subsidized, campaign-funding oil companies, right? And it would give us a reason to dramatically lower taxes for the wealthy, such as sitcom stars and best-selling authors. And finally, FINALLY, we wouldn’t have to deal with the total affront to human decency inherent in being evolved from apes. Jesus Christ! What horsehockey! Us? Evolved from apes? But… but… but… all you have to do is look at Ray Comfort to know that’s not true!
ray and kirk
100% Certified, Created In God’s Image. 1,000% Guaranteed, Best Friends Forever.

The best part, though, is this pricelessly pretentious quote from Cameron. “Evolution is unscientific. In reality, it is a blind faith that's preached with religious zeal as the gospel truth. I'm embarrassed to admit that I was once a na├»ve believer in the theory... Atheism has become very popular in universities – where it's taught that we evolved from animals and that there are no moral absolutes. So we shouldn't be surprised when there are school shootings.” For a minute, we'll totally dismiss the evolution debate to point out, I guess he didn't get the memo: Islamic bombers kill 202 in Indonesian Marriot. Because they believe in God. Didn't a million and a half people die in the Crusades? Fuck you, Kirk Cameron. Fuck you and your sophism right in your pretty pink pseudo-celebrity mouth. It's odd, how they keep talking about embarrassment like that.

Look. I like Christians. I hope there's a Heaven and I hope it rules there. I straight up love Jesus. Right? But if it means following the lead of these two, I guess I'm just gon' have to let my hubris get the best of me. I think Reverend Lovejoy said it best when he said, "I'll see you in hell. From heaven."

Source: The Christian Post